NEW VOICES: South Carolina Officials Point to Costs and Uncertainty for Death Penalty's Decline

Use of the death penalty has decreased in South Carolina, and some state officials are pointing to the high costs and uncertainty of capital punishment as reasons for this decline. The state has had only one execution in the past three years, and the size of death row has declined almost 30% since 2005. No one was sentenced to death in 2011. Prosecutor David Pascoe initially planned to seek the death penalty for a mother who killed her two children, but later changed his mind, with cost being one factor: “Once you file for the death penalty, the clock gets moving and the money, the taxpayers start paying for that trial,” he said. Representative Tommy Pope (pictured), a state legislator and former prosecutor who sought the death penalty for Susan Smith in a similar murder, now would tell victims’ families to consider agreeing to a life-without-parole sentence instead of the death penalty. Life without parole was adopted by the state in 1995. It “allow[s] them a measure of closure that three retrials in a death penalty case never would,” Pope said.

(J. Collins, “Rate of death sentences, executions slows in SC,” Associated Press, May 7, 2012). See Costs and Victims. Read more New Voices. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Victims.